Sunday, November 8, 2009

Egg Whites in My Cocktails

In the past few weeks I've sampled cocktails at three trendy and rather lovely Seattle lounges: ART at the Four Seasons, Vessel and Tavern Law. Each offers an interesting assortment of cocktails (some classic recipes and others "signature," innovative concoctions).  Call me a cocktail newbie, but the frothy egg whites gave me a huge thrill. Here's what I discovered (with a few minor sassy's along the way too).

 ART (At the Four Seasons)

99 Union St, Seattle 206-749-7000
ART (Four Seasons) on Urbanspoon

I discovered the Pisco Sour at ART, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.  You can see the bitters being very precisely inserted and swirled atop egg whites by the expert mixologist. I was in good hands.

The classic recipe for a pisco sour consists of pisco (a brandy produced in Chile and Peru from distilled muscat grapes) lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and bitters. I ask a ridiculous number of questions, but the mixologist (I'm having a hard time knowing whether to say bartender or mixologist...this venue and type of cocktail seems to call for a mixologist) at ART graciously took the time to explain everything he was doing as he was preparing the cocktails.

Here I am enjoying the snacks as I contemplated the next round being mixologized. 
ART has nice snacks.  Nice presentation of snacks too. Very important.
There was an opportunity to sassy the mini burgers from the two men next to me at the bar, but I opted out. I did chat with them about the food, and in their opinion the mini-burger trio was pretty good. Here we have a nice view of the last half eaten mini-burger.  As you can see, I am not an indiscriminate sassy-er. Many people have questioned me about I'm showing my process here.  Had I begun my interaction with this gentleman when the trio of burgers first arrived, I might have considered asking to try one. It is nearly impossible for me to consider sampling a fully picked-over dish, however. And yes, I always test the waters first, and assess the situation before diving in.

I did try some food off of the regular menu (rather than the bar menu or anyone's plate). The gnocchi with truffles, Parmesan and Italian parsley was absolutely lovely. I enjoy classic potato gnocchi (much nicer in texture than the semolina version). This was a luxurious, rich, almost smoky, smooth and decadent dish.

The veal schnitzel with white anchovies, capers, and duck egg was nice too - especially the anchovy-caper tapenade, for a little Mediterranean flair. After doing a little schnitzel research at home, it looks like Scandinavian countries traditionally serve their veal schnitzel with anchovies and capers.  I also discovered what is known as the Holstein Schnitzel, which is served as above, with a fried egg, anchovies and capers. You can find the Emeril Legasse recipe here if you're inspired.  I may not have been hungry enough, or maybe I just can't seem to enjoy breaded food as much as I once did, but this dish didn't do a whole lot for me. Interestingly, I couldn't detect a difference between the duck egg and standard fried free range chicken eggs. Perhaps my palate is not well trained in the various egg categories yet.

So, then, back to the egg whites in my cocktails...

1312 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101 (206) 652-0521
Vessel on Urbanspoon

Vessel is an urban, sophisticated bar. Patrons looked like professionals and for the most part, it was a thirty to early fifty something crowd. It isn't a warm fuzzy overstuffed couch kind of place, but rather a glass and iron, cool, dim, and trendy kind of place. In celebration of their third birthday, Vessel invited a line up of local celebrity mixologists who designed a special cocktail menu.

The Agricole Sour (below) was featured on this special menu. Instead of being distilled from molasses, agricole rhum is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice. This recipe consisted of Neisson Agricole Blanc, dark falernum, egg white, lemon juce, lime juice, and bitters.

What is falernum? It's a rum, clove, ginger, nutmeg, all spice, and lime concoction. The cocktail was suprisingly dark and complex in flavor and not at all sweet. The frothy egg whites balanced and brightened this cocktail. Yum. 

At Vessel, the cocktail menu is sometimes perplexing, but always interesting. I had to ask the server (who was extraordinarily patient and willing to explain every detail of every drink to me) all about falernum and agricole.

Since we are focusing now on the egg white category, I'm also going to point out the Marmalade Sour - currently on the regular Vessel cocktail menu, and also made with egg whites. You can check out images and the recipe on superstar mixologist, Jamie Boudreau's Spirits and Cocktails blog here.

The food menu at Vessel is limited to just a few tapas-sized items such as butternut squash tartlets, tuna tartar, and chorizo sausage with mustard. Here is an after-I-sassied-the-truffle-potato-chips-picture of the neighboring table.  The chips were very greasy and strong on the truffle oil. This was a tough sassy. The ladies were OK about letting me try their chips (and even would have let me sample their drinks, I think) but they were not so eager to chat.  I also noticed that they only ate about two chips in the hour I was sitting there. Most of the drinks (I didn't try) at Vessel look amazing. The snow cone in the foreground above is very elegant mint julep. The ladies at the truffle chip table next to us let me borrow it for a moment so I could take this picture.

Well, I hung out at the bar a little (the atmosphere was festive because of all the guest mixologists working in honor of the birthday hoopla) and I asked around about other dishes and did a little opinion survey on the potato chips.  An attractive woman at the bar, with a black leather jacket and a brand new very dark red manicure (see above) suggested that the potato chips that particular evening were unusually oily, but they were normally much tastier. I trust her. Fair enough.

On to the next egg white cocktails at....

Tavern Law
1406 12th Ave
Seattle (206) 322-9734
Tavern Law on Urbanspoon

Tavern Law is a bit gimmicky with its "secret" upstairs - a second hidden bar inspired by the prohibition era speakeasy. Luckily, the drink and food menu compensate for the borderline cheesy theme. The cocktail menu is made up of a litany of classic period drinks from classic restaurants and bars. The revival of the speakeasy aesthetic and mood is a current trend in urban bars (from martinis served in tea cups or ceramic mugs, secret doors and sign-less entrances, to "old" wood and brick interiors). The New York Times even mentions Tavern Law in its recent piece on prohibition drinking and the recent re-birth of the faux speakeasy. In anycase Tavern Law is interesting and offers some unusual cocktails and a knowledgeable and committed staff.

Below is Vessel's rendition of the Clover Club cocktail, first served at the famed New York Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1935. The Clover Club consists of gin, lemon, raspberry syrup and egg whites.

Other pretty cocktails at Vessel and an example of the hand-written food menu (bottom left hand corner):

The cocktail menu is printed, but the food menu changes often and is written only on a blackboard or on a slip of paper by hand.

The service here goes above and beyond. It is outstanding. My uber picky self was bothered by the little shards of ice floating about in my Clover Club cocktail. They were destoying the smooth egg whites and distracting me from the flavor of my drink. But, before I could get too worked up about it, the bartender (this title seems more appropriate at a speakeasy) passed by and asked if everything was OK, and I mentioned that I wasn't enjoying the drink and why, and he immediately brought his straining equipment to the table and took care of business, straining each drink with great care. Then he sat and explained all about egg whites and drinks and the menu and and and...! For the next round,  I asked for a pisco sour (since I was still dreaming of ART), and this lovely man enthusiastically brought me the house Pisco brandy at Tavern Law.

And here is the lovely bartender/mixologist (what did they call bartenders at a speakeasy?), posing with the chalk board menu behind him.  That truffle risotto is pretty good. The beet salad with candied cashews was amazing and much more interesting that the far too common beet salad with goat cheese on every menu these days. The foie gras with angostura jelly was nice too.
I look forward to returning to sample more cocktails at Tavern Law, ART and Vessel...and I especially look forward to another stunning Pisco Sour at ART.


Hutch said...

Wow- I've never had egg whites in a cocktail. And my main cocktail guru, Matt Madden - just flew away to France. HE would know where to go get a good one in NYC.

Guess I'll settle for my rotgut Rob Rois (or is Robs Roi?) until he gets back.

Darwin said...

Very nice. Next time at Vessel you must try the Porto Flip. Not on the menu and it uses both parts of the egg. The white and the yolk. I tried this one the other night in another "turkey" series of 3 cocktails. Haven't had a bad drink yet. Don't ever expect to. BTW the ice globes are back and they had the lamb burger sliders were not sold out the other day! The 3 Year Anniversary was crazy...

S said...

Nice recap of your visit to ART but I must insist that on my own, the schnitzel was by far superior--the gnocchi both gummy and leaden in mouth (if that's possible), and the over-ripe parmesan +truffle simply overplayed. No amount of Italian flat leaf could brighten. Contrary to your sassessment, I found the veal lightly & lovingly breaded golden like -katsu from Tokyo's finest streets. Succulent slices of cutlet left intact, not pounded into oblivion, along with the light, astringent lift of caper-anchovy make this one the pièce de résistance. Oh yeah can't forget the sunny duck egg alongside. A perfect complement.

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